#3 - Initiative
Debby Greene's daughter probably would have lived without her pacifier at age 2. Kate could have been weaned at 18 months. And my friend Nettie Quackenbush's 3-year-old, Ellie, might have been able to go to sleep on her own (without a parent tucked in beside her) some time around her second birthday. Instead, and despite our complaints, these habits lingered on until -- surprise! -- we all took the initiative to end them.
Even when we're openly bothered by our child's habits -- whether it's thumb sucking or dragging a blankie everywhere -- we often allow them to continue because we worry that changing the situation would be difficult or maybe even traumatic. It probably doesn't help that parents have vivid recall of how certain behaviors were allowed to begin.
For Quackenbush, of Big Sky, Montana, letting her 8-month-old cry it out at night was a nightmare for both of them. Reading books, telling stories, and getting into bed with her daughter each night was a far easier alternative. But children change rapidly, and parents can miss the fact that their child has outgrown certain needs. When Quackenbush finally decided it was time for Ellie to go to sleep on her own, she expected a battle. Instead, the 3-year-old happily kissed her mom goodnight. "It was one of those 'aha' moments," she says. "I realized Ellie had been letting us pamper her to bed and we'd been going right along with it."
So how do you know when you should help your child ditch his Binky or favorite bedtime ritual? First, try to recognize your role in allowing habits you don't like to continue. You might be holding on to what you think your toddler needs as much as he is, and if that's the case, it's time to let go. Once you're open to the possibility of change, it's easier to see where and how your child will adapt.